The universe that we see and hear is called a virtual reality, maya. All its elements – galaxies, stars, our human bodies – are born, and will change form. We refer to the change of form as an ‘end’, and therefore we say that both stars and our bodies ‘die’.
When the temporary nature of all that is seen is understood, the next logical step is to prevent any attachment with it. A doubt can arise – if all is maya, why build a house, a hospital, a temple?
The ninth Teacher Guru Teg Bahadur moved from Patna in Bihar, and set up a new town, Anandpur, in Punjab. Nestled between the lower Himalayas, and the plains of the Sutlej river, the city became popular. On seeing the new constructions, Syed Mele Shah, a resident of nearby Ropar city, questioned the need for a spiritual leader to construct a new city. He felt that if the Guru had no attachments with maya, there should have been no need to set up a new city.
In his conversation with Guru Teg Bahadur, Syed Mele Shah expressed the doubts he had, and quoted from the Guru Granth Sahib:
They know that they will have to depart, so why do they make such ostentatious displays?
Those who do not know that they will have to depart, continue to arrange their affairs.
The Guru replied saying that even though we understand that all of this will not last forever, we must continue to serve our fellow beings who are with us. Schools, hospitals, shelters are needed to bring comfort to those in distress. The Guru pointed to a mound of sand, where children had made houses, and left. Syed Mele Shah understood the analogy. In time, the sand structures will fall, and its makers left them without any attachment, to be used as needed by those that follow. Even as we remain aware of the mortal nature of all existence, we must continue to be of selfless service to our fellow beings.